On Adventist Heritage Tours, one of my favorite places is in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. Leonard Hastings, a local farmer during Adventist beginnings, was passionate about the soon return of Jesus Christ. On October 22, as the anticipated date drew near, he left his crops unharvested as a testimony of his faith. Shop owners closed down, made restitution for loss, damage, or injury and paid their debts. They were serious about their faith.

Another favorite place is the bridge between Fairhaven and New Haven, Massachusetts. It was on this bridge that Bates, fresh from having discovered the truth of the seventh-day Sabbath, saw a friend who asked, “What’s the news?” To which Bates replied, “The seventh-day is the Sabbath of the Lord our God.” Soon his friend, James Hall, joined him in observing the Sabbath and they shared their faith with several of their friends. Soon Bates was another fellow Advent believer and abolitionist, the singing blacksmith, Heman Gurney. “The cause of truth lays near my heart,” he wrote in 1852.

What did Hastings, Bates, and Gurney have in common? They had a passion for studying the Bible. They further maintained that God’s people will and must grow in their understanding of truth. Gurney wrote:

Truth is precious; but all truth is not alike precious; for all truth does not send forth its rays of light to the same generation. There is a portion due to every generation. It is not the labor of the church now to show that Jesus was the true Messiah, as did the apostles. But there is another portion of truth more appropriate now, and calculated to act upon the interest and motives of men with greater power. Although the portion of truth that has awakened an interest in the speedy coming of Christ has been proclaimed by a minority, it is therefore no evidence that a providential hand has not ordered it in a manner which fulfills prophecy, and reveals the hearts of men.[i]

So, what of these early Adventist truths remain relevant for Adventism in 2022? If our Adventist pioneers were still alive, how might they re-imagine Adventism for our present world? Do these truths still matter, and if they do, what might they look like?

Adventist Activism

While the discovery of core truths, such as the Sabbath and Sanctuary, are well-known, what is not is the fact that our earliest church pioneers cared deeply about the world in which they lived. This was a seeming paradox for those who, anticipating Christ’s return, believed that this present world would indeed fade away. Therefore, early Adventists believed that it wasn’t enough to merely proclaim the Advent truths—they had to deeply shape the world in which they lived until the end arrived.

It is this deep sense of urgency coupled with activism that made the pioneers care deeply about a wide range of social issues—everything from advocating for temperance (against alcoholic beverages in particular) to health and dress reform. Adventists built sanitariums to not merely help people get better, but to teach them how to live healthier and happier lives. Many of the denomination’s earliest institutions were concerned about providing for those less fortunate, including those who were poor, widows, or orphans in their midst. Adventists raised money not only for churches, but to provide relief to those who were suffering. In what might seem ironic, Adventists cared deeply about the world in which they lived, just as they cared deeply about being ready for the world to come. They believed they were a divinely called movement, and thus had a unique message and mission, that changed the way they lived.


Adventists today can, by studying the past, capture a glimpse of the passion the early pioneers had for the world around them. This sense of urgency to be ready for Jesus’ soon return, with the passing of time, remains an imperative part of our Adventist identity. This world is not our home, and we are left to faithfully wait for and hasten the return of Jesus. In the meantime, God’s people are described as having the “patience of the saints.” It isn’t easy to be patient, and yet that is what God’s people are called to do.

Reflective Remnant

If these truths remain just as relevant today, what must change is our application of how we apply them to our lives. What does it mean to be a Seventh-day Adventist now after 171 years since the Great Disappointment?

Perhaps while God’s reflective remnant patiently wait, there can be new ways to take these same old truths and apply them to our present lives. The seventh-day Sabbath remains just as imperative as ever. It is the defining mark of God’s end-time people. It is God’s remnant church who keep the seventh-day Sabbath, not merely because it is the right day, but because it represents who the true God is and what He stands for—a moral government of God, and that God’s character will ultimately be revealed through the Great Controversy.

Could it be that a more relational understanding of the seventh-day Sabbath could be just what people in the 21st century need? That in a frenetic age, with instantaneous communication and social media, God calls His people to be in right relation with Him and with others. That in a world that yearns for authenticity despite the artificial nature of social media, God invites us to live in community. The Sabbath can become a touchstone whereby a new generation finds true value and meaning, both with God and with one another.

God’s remnant people also value the seventh-day Sabbath because it is a symbol of His creation. For a people at the end of time who recognize that this world will literally burn, yet because they value God’s Word who made this world even though it is corrupted by sin, God has entrusted it to our care and keeping. In this way, God’s end-time people who care deeply for the seventh-day Sabbath should also care for the environment. They know they aren’t going to save it, as some may hope, but they are good stewards of this earth because they know they must be good stewards of the earth made new. In other words, Adventists can and must care about the environment, not for political or social motivation, but simply because it is the biblical perspective. Adventists in the new century, particularly as climate change becomes more disruptive, need to care deeply for God’s creation for the same reason that they care for the seventh-day Sabbath. It is part of what God has tasked us with.

Adventist Advantage

God’s remnant people have a unique and important responsibility as they patiently wait for Christ’s return. They are tasked with the proclamation of the “everlasting gospel” to the world.

This is indeed the work of the Three Angel’s Messages of Revelation 14. While we don’t know how long time will last, until Jesus does return, each generation will be tasked with the mission of sharing this message. That means taking the same “present truth” of the pioneers and making it our own. Not for one moment will this change our distinctive beliefs. They remain and will only become all the more important, but it is this distinctive Adventist outlook—a worldview—that gives hope in an uncertain world. It is this hope that drives Adventism and is indeed the Adventist advantage. It is, after all, a sacred responsibility, not because it makes anyone better, but instead, humble us to recognize that as the world changes, our Adventist perspective changes the way we live in this world. We cannot sit idly by but must remain in the spirit of the pioneers as activists living out our beliefs in an ever-changing world.

Michael W. Campbell PhD, is director of archives, statistics, and research for the North American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He has spent over a decade teaching in higher education in schools in Texas and the Philippines. Previously he pastored in Kansas and in the Rocky Mountain Conference. He is married to Heidi, a PhD candidate at Baylor University, and they have two teenage children, Emma and David.

[i]H. S. Gurney, “Communication from Bro. Gurney,” [dated Feb. 19, 1854], ARH, Feb. 28, 1854, 47.